I’m trying to keep race reports brief, but wanted to summarize a couple fun races from the past few months.
Awendaw Passage 14k
This was a new trail race put together by RD Adam Allie in Charleston. My family loves Charleston, so this was a nice excuse to spend a weekend at the Ocean.
- The course is, in a word, fabulous. An 8.5 mile out-and-back along the intercoastal waterway, it has a delightful mix of flat and fast, small ups and down, lots of twists and turns, bridges, tree roots, quite a bit of mud, and even a few sections of wading through ankle deep water. I loved it. Loved it.
- Adam invited some of the fastest local runners and even introduced us pre-race. Once the race started, the track speedsters quickly reminded me that I don’t have the leg speed to keep up with them. I ran 5th place solo for the whole race. Fun to run hard and fast, but definitely not my forte these days, especially right after a 50k. A few more hours of these rooty trails would have evened things out…
- The finish line was great. Lots of good food, including Chick-fil-A sandwiches, music, handmade awards, raffle prizes, etc. My 5th place finish earned me a cool hat.
- It was obvious that Adam put a lot of time and thought into this race. What a great gem. I hope he can keep it going so more people can see and enjoy these trails.
Looks like the track stars wear sunglasses and no shirts, as opposed to shirts and visors…
My 4-person cheering squad. One benefit of lots of kids.
Laurel Valley 35 mile
I have run 24 ultras and enjoy trying new races every year rather than returning to the same ones again and again. Other than my hometown race of Logan Peak, I have never repeated an ultramarathon. I guess Laurel Valley is my new hometown race, as it is now the only other race I’ve returned to, after winning it in 2011.
- My 2011 race report provides an abundance of pictures and a nice course description, so I won’t repeat all that info. I will say that the course is still the same, the distance is still a mystery (31 miles? 33? 35.7?), it’s still hot and humid, absolutely no aid stations, and only 2 course markings. And the stairs and bridges are still there, slick as snot. Thousands of steps. The spiders are still there, as well, spinning their hundreds of webs.
- Claude changed the start time from the normal 6 am to 5 am. The resulting 2:50 am wake up alarm was my earliest ever. Of course, I barely slept that night, so it didn’t make a difference, anyways. Plus Jason Flassing and I were the first ones to wish Ryan Thompson a happy birthday on the drive up at 3 am.
- I had two goals- win, and break the elusive 6 hr barrier. Despite a competitive field with all the fast SC ultra runners showing up (plus some out-of-town folks like American Record holder Joe Fejes), I achieved the first goal. The additional hour of darkness made just enough of a difference to keep me from the second goal. Running in the dark on the technical terrain for the first 9 miles slowed me down 6 min versus my 2011 time. I was 8 min faster the rest of the way. My race calculator adjustment for darkness is 10% slowdown per mile. As best I can calculate, the extra darkness slowed me 5 minutes. My final time? 6:04:03.
- I love the remoteness of the race. No road crossings, no official aid stations, nothing. I saw 3 non-racers all day (Barry plus 2 guys on a boat) until the final mile.
- Knowing the course is a big benefit at this race, especially since there are no course markers until the last mile. Jason, Ryan, and Merle all got off course, while I never did. Jason ran at least 2 extra miles.
- Clark Zealand’s 5:02 course record is still the most impressive, out-of-reach record I’ve ever seen. Nutso fast.
- One of my two gel flasks popped out of my Nathan pack vest in the first mile and I watched in horror as it rolled down the mountain. Fortunately, a tree stopped it within a few feet. I subsequently stowed it in the hip pocket of my Pearl Izumi Ultra Split Shorts and never had any more problems. Love the pockets on those shorts. Holds 2 flasks and my tp with no problems.
- I can think of no other race where the lead runner has such a different experience than all the subsequent runners. The sole reason? The spider webs. So, so, so many webs. I led the race for over 5 hours and rarely went more than a few minutes without running through one of the strong, sticky webs. Some sections of the course have 10 webs in one minute. I would conservatively say I ran through at least 500 webs, probably more. It’s a unique experience, not too fun. As opposed to last time when I often carried a spider stick and would stop to break them, though, I’m proud to say I decided to mentally ignore them and not slow down or react. It worked. I never let them affect me and they didn’t seem near as annoying, even when picking them out of my mouth.
- I tried to describe how slippery the stairs and bridges are to Ryan the night before the race, but was reminded myself when I slipped going down on the Horsepasture river stairs and slid right down 20+ stairs, somehow emerging relatively unscathed. The slippery stairs and bridges play a huge role in why this race is as slow as a 40 miler rather than a 50k.
- Everyone should have a BAS. Ultrarunning buddy Barry backpacked in and camped overnight at mile 18 of the course just to bring water and gu’s to Merle, Jason, and myself. Can’t beat the Barry Aid Station. Thanks again, man. And cool story and pics of the bear sighting.
- Last time I won the race by over an hour. It was much closer this time. Merle and Ryan were within a minute of me at the BAS, over halfway through the race. Merle finished just 13 min behind me, Ryan 13 more back, and Jason broke 7 hrs. Brian Kistner was the only other finisher before we had to head for home. I really missed seeing more finishers and talking to all the runners afterwards, but I had to get home.
- I hope I’ll be back next year. After all, sub-6 hrs still awaits.